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Community Solar

Innovating and unlocking the community-scale solar market.


What is Shine?

An initiative of nonprofit Rocky Mountain Institute, Shine focuses on unlocking a “sweet spot” in the U.S. clean-energy market: community-scale solar. Shine is developing innovative community-scale solar pilot projects—leveraging economies of scale, standardizing system design, developing business models that allow low-income customers to participate, and other levers—to make solar energy affordable and accessible for all. 

Why Community-Scale Solar?

Solar PV in the United States has been growing impressively. By the end of 2015, the U.S. had more than 25 GW of installed solar PV capacity. Despite this growth, solar PV generated only 1% of U.S. electricity in 2015. Tremendous potential remains for solar PV’s future.

To date, solar’s growth in the U.S. has been concentrated in two market segments: 1) utility-scale solar and 2) behind-the-meter solar (i.e., residential rooftop and commercial). Of households that have gone solar, most are middle- and upper-income households. As a result, millions of homes and businesses are being left out of the solar revolution because they can’t go solar—whether for reasons of financing, renting their home or apartment, lack of a suitable roof for solar, or other factors. Community-scale solar can change that and provide affordable access.

Community-scale solar represents a substantial untapped third market segment. It sits in a “sweet spot” that leverages economies of scale of utility-scale solar and the community and distributed benefits of behind-the-meter solar.

Thought Leadership

Who is Community-Scale Solar For?

The community-scale solar market segment is potentially for everyone, especially:

  • Homes and businesses can go solar through shared solar subscriptions and other models.
  • Utilities—including municipal utilities, electric cooperatives, and investor-owned utilities—can invest in community-scale solar on behalf of their customers.
  • Community-based organizations can develop local shared solar projects that benefit their communities.
  • Solar developers can find great opportunity in this nascent market segment, which RMI estimates could reach 30 GW by 2020.

New Request for Proposals (RFP) for Colorado electric cooperatives

On behalf of 6 rural electric cooperatives in Colorado, RMI is running a Request For Proposals (RFP) for 16.75 MW-AC of community-scale solar. The RFP is open to solar project developers, EPCs, and community solar subscription providers. Learn more about this RFP in the press release here.

Instruction to bidders:
All interested bidders must notify RMI of their intent to participate by sending an email to Kevin Brehm, kbrehm@rmi.org, by March 31, 2017, 5pm MST. All proposals must be uploaded via the links below by April 25, 2017, 5pm MST. 

See our list of questions and answers for this RFP as of 3/30/17.

4/7/17 Update: MCREA Decision:

Morgan County Rural Electric Association (MCREA) has informed RMI that it no longer wishes to pursue solar and will no longer be participating in this RFP. Vendors, therefore, need not respond to the MCREA projects included in this RFP. MCREA had requested a total of 2 MW from 2 sites, so the total portfolio request is now 14.75 MW across 9 sites. MCREA's decision has not impacted the other co-ops who are still committed to participating in this RFP.

To submit a bid:

  • Download the RFP here.
  • Download the data input sheet here.
  • Upload the completed RFP, data input sheet, and proof of payment (screenshot or PDF file) here.

To participate in this RFP, bidders are required to complete a $250 submission fee to Rocky Mountain Institute, via the Pay Now button below. This fee covers the cost to RMI of properly evaluating each bid. 

RMI will not evaluate bids for which we have not received a payment.

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